Officials want professional study of public safety facilities

Sep 5, 2019 by

Published September 4, 2019

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Local officials will soon begin laying the groundwork for developing plans for a new public safety building.

As part of the fiscal year 2020 capital budget that voters approved at the April Town Meeting, $30,000 was allocated for the purpose of conducting two feasibility studies. One study will be focusing on potentially expanding the elementary schools if enrollment continues to grow. The second study will focus on addressing the public safety building.

In an interview with the Villager, Town Administrator Rob Dolan said the Strategic Planning Committee has been reviewing proposed town projects for the past year. He added that the committee recently voted to conduct a feasibility study for the two stations.

“The Strategic Planning Committee’s goal right now is to look at the major issues of capital need in the community to ensure that we have all of the information possible for the committee, the Board of Selectmen and the public to make proper decisions with facts,” said Dolan. “And those facts include feasibility, price, location and options.”

While Dolan noted plans for a new Lynnfield Public Library are “way ahead” of other town projects, he said plans for a new public safety facility have yet to be developed.

“Our police and fire stations are in poor condition,” said Dolan. “They are very old.”

Strategic Planning Committee Chairman Joe Connell agreed.

“The current public safety building needs to be addressed sooner than later on several levels to meet Lynnfield’s safety concerns,” said Connell. “Like anyone in our town, we make improvements to our homes throughout the years for numerous reasons such as new technologies to make our lives better, improvements for living conditions, functionality and, most importantly, changes based on safety concerns. The current public safety building has safety concerns. The issues identified over several years, and most recently by the police chief and the fire chief, are concerning and need immediate attention.”

The public safety building was built in the 1960s.

“When the building was built, it was a beautiful building and met the needs of Lynnfield in the 1960s and 1970s, when Lynnfield was a small town with basic needs,” said Connell. “Whether we like it or not, Lynnfield has changed in numerous ways over the years. Times have changed and Lynnfield has grown and changed. We need to meet the safety needs of the town and for the next 50 years. We need to make improvements for the citizens of this town, but more importantly, the heroes who work out of this building.”

Connell noted firefighters currently store their equipment next to fire trucks and where the firefighters eat.

“By regulation, the equipment is supposed to be stored in a safe room that exhaust those harmful chemicals,” said Connell. “We owe them more than this.”

Connell said the police station also has issues that need to be rectified.

“It was built for a normal business hours facility back in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Connell. “That changed with MarketStreet and other development additions to the town. It needs to be a 24-hour facility that can, if need be, hold both a male and female prisoner overnight. It would be nice if that didn’t happen, but that is just not reality.”

In order to begin the process for addressing the public safety building’s issues, Dolan said a request for proposals (RFP) is in the process of being developed. He said the RFP will solicit bids from firms that will be tasked with developing a feasibility study for the facility.

“I have heard several ideas like a combined police and fire station in South Lynnfield,” said Dolan. “That is easy to say, but the feasibility, cost and whether we have enough space needs to be studied by a professional. Along with that, if we have a dual police and fire station in South Lynnfield, what happens to the stations we have right now? Would we only have one fire station? Well, maybe that’s not the right choice. And if it were to stay open, what renovations are needed?”

Dolan said the town will be able to hire an architectural firm “at a small cost to do that analysis for us and take the community through that process.”

“At the end of the day, there would be a plan that would realistically be successful that would bring the community to a point where we have costs and feasibility on schools, the library and the public safety building,” said Dolan. “The community would then be able to make a decision once it has the facts before them.”

Connell echoed Dolan’s viewpoint.

“I believe informing the citizens of Lynnfield through a clear and concise manner that they also understand our first responders’ safety needs, take up a conversation at Town Meeting, and move forward with a plan,” said Connell. “We owe it to our first responders to give them a place that is safe.”

Aside from the fields’ projects that have taken place over the last five years, Dolan noted the last major municipal project to occur in town was the school renovation projects in the early 2000s. He said debt from those projects will be coming off the town’s books in 2025.

“All of these projects would be tens of millions of dollars except for the elementary school renovations, which would cost less,” said Dolan. “But a new library and a new public safety building would be substantial. But before we can worry about debt exclusions, we have to know what we can do and what the general cost would be.”

Dolan said it’s important for townspeople to “understand that nothing is cheaper than it is today.”

“Interest rates are low and construction costs are high right now,” said Dolan. “But we are not at that stage yet. We need to know where things can go, how much they would cost and what they would look like. The goal of the Strategic Planning Committee, the Board of Selectmen and I is to have all of these projects on equal footing by the end of the year.”

Dolan said the RFP for the two elementary schools will be finalized after Labor Day. He said the RFP for the public safety building will be finalized later this fall.

“I hope a number of firms will submit bids,” said Dolan. “We will have a design committee pick the person to do the work.”

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